In an article in the May 2004 issue of the EmailLabs Newsletter, Loren McDonald gives six principles and 15 tips for writing better subject lines for email newsletters.
According to McDonald, subject lines are among the most important parts of a successful email newsletter because it is the key determinant for higher open and click-through rates. Depending on the content of the email’s subject line, the recipient could open the message, file it for future reading, ignore it, delete it immediately, filter it or report it as spam. Many ISP and recipient-level spam filters also rely on the subject line in filtering.
The author, therefore, submits six principles for writing email subject lines:
McDonald believes that the subject line should convey information that is important, timely or of real value.
The author says the subject line should intrigue the recipient in order to grab his or her attention from the other emails in his or her inbox.
She adds that the subject line should generate trust in your brand or company name by not making false promises or misleading recipients.
McDonald points out that subject lines should have an overt or implied strategy to help direct recipients to take the desired action based on your goals, such as reading specific articles, getting certain information, visiting your Web site and learning about your products.
The author believes that email subject lines should address the needs and interests of recipients as individual customers, readers or prospects.
She emphasizes that subject lines must work consistently with “From” lines because recipients look at these two together in determining whether or not the email is from a trusted source.
McDonald then delivers her 15 tips for writing better subject lines:
1. Personalize your email subject line not only by addressing it to each individual recipient but also by tailoring it according to the interests of the list segment he or she belongs to.
2. Include your Company name, brand name or newsletter name in brackets at the beginning of the subject line to reinforce the “From” line in assuring recipients that the email is from a trusted source.
3. Use a consistent style in your subject lines based on what you have tested and proven to be most effective for your recipients in order to make your emails immediately recognizable to them.
4. Ask a skilled writer who knows how to write newspaper headlines to write, edit or review each subject line based on higher relevance and creativity even if he or she is not the writer of the rest of the email newsletter content.
5. Test your subject lines by sending several sample versions to yourself and gauging your own response to them in your inbox.
6. For AOL subscribers, use shorter and more conservative subject lines that include your company name or newsletter name because your “From” name will not be displayed in their inbox. Instead, the “From” email address is displayed.
7. Monitor your own inbox to get inspiration on the types of subject lines intrigue and motivate you to open the email and which ones are left unread.
8. Monitor and analyze which of your subject lines generate the best open and click-through rates, and then categorize and assess the approaches used in them.
9. Analyze current news, events and upcoming holidays to determine what is on the forefront of your readers’ minds at the moment and then use that context in formulating your subject line.
10. Test your subject line against spam filters using a spam content checker, and then send test email to several accounts such as AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail and others.
11. Test different subject line styles and lengths to determine what is most effective for your recipients. Check to ensure that your subject line is not cut off by certain email clients.
12. Use very specific and focused subject lines targeted to each segment of your list or relevant to the majority of your recipients in order to avoid being generic and boring.
13. To ensure a well thought out and polished subject line, do not write it at the last minute.
14. Dare to try more aggressive, creative, tantalizing or specific subject lines and then monitor and analyze results.
15. Test different types of subject lines several times in different portions of your list in order to counter-check results.
These principles and tips would still benefit newsletters in 2006.